“This tastes like summer,” my son told me as we ate dinner on our patio a few days ago. We had potatoes from our garden roasted in olive oil, with some bell peppers and onions thrown in. Along with scrambled eggs and a salad, it made a nice meal to eat outside as dusk slowly deepened at the bottom of May.
Potatoes are so cheap at the supermarket that I don’t save any money by growing them myself. I raise them mainly as a bridge between winter and spring, planting some shortly after Valentine’s Day this year when the yard was still scarred from an epic freeze. The thought of a green landscape seemed remote back then, but the seed potatoes we buried in two big pots near the porch were our little gesture of hope.
This year, I planted two varieties, Red La Soda and Kennebec, because I enjoy a horse race and wanted to see which came out best.
Harvesting the Red La Soda potatoes reminded me how they got their name. They’re a beautiful russet color, like a piece of fruit painted by Cézanne. Maybe the French were thinking of spuds like these when they decided to call the potato pomme de terre, which means “apple of the earth.”
Kennebec potatoes are plainer — light tan, like a sensible summer shoe. But they also taste good with anything, or even by themselves after roasting with a bit of salt. A few months ago, stamping my feet to keep warm as I tucked our seed potatoes beneath soil and manure mulched with straw, I thought about the promise of the days we now enjoy as we sit on the porch in sandals and shorts.
Waiting for the seasons to change seems easier as I get older because age has sharpened my sense of how quickly time goes. I thought about this on Memorial Day weekend as we took our SUV to the car wash to get it spiffy for summer road trips. With a few swipes of their vacuum, the professionals were finally able to extract the last remaining needles from the Christmas tree we’d brought home last December. Had a half a year already passed since the Frasier fir crossed our threshold?
The swiftness of the calendar tells me that summer, too, will soon be gone.
No one in our household these days has the whole summer off. We savor the season as most grown-ups do, in brief breaks away from the office.
Maybe the trick to enjoying it is paying attention to the small moments. In “All the Beauty Still Left,” a new book on my nightstand, Spencer Reese combines inspirational quotes with his bright watercolors, an invitation to slow down and take in the view. He quotes artist David Hockney: “A lot of people don’t look very hard.”
True enough, though it's something we might all work on before another summer slips away.